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We handle cases across the United States. Allen Stewart is licensed to practice law in Texas, California, New York, Pennsylvania, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio and Arizona.

How to Check a Used Car For an Odometer Rollback


Buying a used car can be a blessing or a curse. If you find a vehicle that is in good shape, runs well and reliably and is a good price, you can be sure you got the blessing. However, there are many ways that purchasing a used vehicle can be a direct step into cursed city. Rolling into cursed city may not be the ideal for an individual about to enter the world of vehicle ownership (or one who is attempting to replace a vehicle that already was plaguing you with issues). Therefore, it is a good idea to be aware these issues are possible when vehicle shopping.

For example, a common tactic to make a vehicle marketable for a higher price is to rollback the odometer. While in today’s world that doesn’t mean manually changing numbers, it can sometimes mean a big hassle for the new owner.

If you want to avoid being that owner, consider the following signs as a red flag.

First, take a look at the odometer and the dash surrounding it. If there are screws missing, digits that don’t line up properly or scratches anywhere on the instrument cluster, it’s a good time to say thanks but no thanks.

Next, if you take a test drive and there are clicking noises from the odometer, take it back, hand over the keys and walk away. Likewise, if you see any indication of fingerprints inside the plastic of the cluster cover, just say no to purchasing that vehicle. These are clear indications someone was more focused on making a bigger profit than providing a safe and reliable vehicle to the person showing up to hand over their hard-earned money to the scammer.

Another indication is if the speedometer does not seem to fit with the other instruments in the console. Also, if there are any added switches that allow the driver to control the odometer – say by turning it on or off, then this is not the vehicle to buy.

The tires can also be a warning to skip buying the vehicle. If the tires look very worn or recently replaced but the odometer reads less than 20,000, you have a clear case of tampering.

Likewise, if there are any stickers for maintenance or a note from the last oil change and the current mileage does not seem logical compared to what was written, some issues may arise in your prospective purchase.

Finally, compare the mileage on the title with what’s currently displayed in the vehicle. See if the owner is willing to say how long they have had the vehicle and if it was a work vehicle or just a daily driver, if it drove highway miles or locally, etc…

If the owner is elderly, the lower mileage on the vehicle will make more sense than the businessman who talks about various trips or the soccer mom who has to hurry to get her kid to practice.


If the vehicle sports signage advertising a business, expect high mileage. If it is not high, then pay extra attention as the likelihood is someone did tamper with the odometer to get rid of the vehicle faster and for a better profit.

Also, keep in mind that the average vehicle in North America has around 12,000 miles added to it each year. Check the year of the vehicle and do some math to see if the current mileage listed makes sense based on that average.

Take a look at the brake pedal. This typically sees less use and wear, so if it is worn considerably and the mileage is less than 60,000, there is an issue. Also keep in mind, however, that a vehicle driven in a big city with a lot of stop-and-go traffic will have a more worn brake pedal and a lower mileage.

Also, check the floor mats. While it might not seem logical at first glance, the floor mats take a lot of abuse when a vehicle is driven a lot. If there are signs of abuse and “heel spots” in the floormat, then it’s a good chance the odometer does not accurately reflect the miles the vehicle has been driven.

Keep in mind, there is a law that protects you if you end up with a lemon. Technically, the odometer being tampered with won’t classify a vehicle as a lemon. However, the criteria for a vehicle to be considered a lemon does involve the amount of miles driven, so it is key to be aware of whether the odometer is accurate.

Under the Texas Lemon Law, a vehicle that is within the first 24 months or 24,000 miles – here’s where the odometer makes that different – and was purchased within Texas state lines is eligible for coverage.

If the vehicle was taken in for repair of a defect that puts the life of the driver and/or passengers at risk and it was not resolved, the potential for coverage is real.

If the vehicle has been taken in for the SAME problem four or more times – with no resolution – then the Texas Lemon Law considers the vehicle eligible for classification as a lemon.

Also, if the vehicle’s defect means it has sat idle for 30 days or more with no loaner vehicle provided, the lemon law is on your side.

Therefore, if you have a vehicle with a serious defect and are hoping to have that resolved, make sure first of all to make the manufacturer aware of your ongoing issue. Keep careful documentation of all efforts to have the defect resolved and be prepared to file a Lemon Law complaint.

Once you file a complaint (fees are required to do so), then be prepared for mediation with the manufacturer/dealer. If this is unsuccessful, the next step is to have a hearing where both sides can voice their side to an examiner. That examiner then has 60 days to file a written decision, which can be appealed if necessary.

For the vehicle owner, if the case is found in their favor, the options for resolution are as follows: repair of the vehicle in question, replacement of said vehicle or repurchase of said vehicle. Both replacement and repurchase factor in the number of miles driven when they consider the value of the vehicle to provide or the amount to repay the vehicle owner.

Also, the examiner makes this decision without input from the vehicle owner beyond what is presented at the hearing.

The odometer cannot be tampered with at any point if this process is to work efficiently and in the favor of the vehicle owner.

With this in mind, it pays to be very attentive to signs of odometer tampering when purchasing a vehicle.

In the US, roughly 450,000 vehicles have the odometers altered annually, according to the NHTSA. Therefore, the issue is more prominent in the auto sales market than you might expect. With this knowledge at your disposal, hopefully you as a potential vehicle owner will be able to make the best decisions and avoid future hassle and expense when you are attempting to purchase a reliable vehicle.

This information brought to you byAllen Stewart P.C.

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